Monday, March 20, 2006

Analyzing the Knight Record

Bob Knight's Wins by Year

In honor of this year's NCAA basketball tournament: the accompanying chart graphs the college basketball wins achieved by legendary Coach Bob Knight. Having watched many of Knight's 1980's-era teams, I was fascinated by the discipline achieved by his system.

Prior to the shot-clock era, if a Knight team had a four point lead with a few minutes to go, a victory was all but secure. His teams ran motion offense to perfection. It was screen, cut, screen, cut, until a cutter found himself at close range of the basket with the ball and generally had an easy layup.

This patient brand of basketball, of course, now belongs to the annals of history. The onset of the shot-clock era -- with the appearance of the 45-second clock in 1986 -- began to change the game. And once the 35-second clock appeared in 1994, the game's pace became much more frenetic. A backcourt press could leave a team with only 26 seconds to run their offense.

Patience, cutting and screening are no longer as valued as sheer athletic ability. Getting up and down the court with alacrity, recovering quickly, and long-range shooting are all the most valued skills.

The point in the graph is this: could we graphically see the impact of the 35-second shot on Knight's patient game? My contention is that we can. Since '94, Knight's teams haven't won 25 games. Nor have they gotten past the sweet sixteen.

Knight -- who has done more to change the game of college basketball more than perhaps any other innovator -- does not seem to have adjusted as well to the 35-second era.

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